You Remind me of the babe…

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Tåke knelt there, cradling the child, asleep and swaddled in her cloak, with one arm; the last and hopefully first of a species. Both ancient as anything on Zephyus could be and yet, only minutes old. She stroked the tips of her fingers across the slime slicked neck of the unconscious half-elf blood hunter. A babe without a family and a soon to be missing blood hunter. Hopefully he would see reason and not be too stubborn, for she had to ensure that he didn’t return to the monastery again; at least for the next.. oh five to ten years or so. Plenty of time for him to fulfill the tasks she was going to entrust him with. She looked down a thoughtful look transforming her expression into something softer, more wondrous as she looked at the child and sang softly. His lashes were dark and thick against the copper of the roundness of his cheek, a subtle sheen in the dim light of the small fire seemed to give him the barest hint of translucence, as if he was not wholly of this world just yet, and it pleased her.

Yes, he was special, this innocent. He would help this world somehow, when they fixed everything. “Gotta fix the world then you can help clean it up and maintain the balance.” She let that little whisper of hope fill her heart. There had been so much pain and death in the world since she had been resurrected. Tåke felt guilty, as if she were responsible for it all somehow. But managing to stumble into saving the Shallar felt like it had all been worth it, like she was actually doing something right for a change. She studied this child with thoughtful expression.

A small part of her wondered if anyone had held her like this before leaving her on that beach, that sting was an old and familiar friend now, softened by time. Still, her heart stuttered a second before settling down, body relaxing as she fell into a light trance, feeling the power she drew from the natural world and gently poured it both into this innocent life and into the less innocent life resting beside her.

Listening with half an ear, the druid hummed a mindless tune, barely more than a rough thrumming in her throat, bubbling up from feelings she could not put into words, ebbing and flowing at its own pace she let the music fill her up and pour itself into the world. She lost herself for a small eternity, power tingling through her arms, leaving a gentle warmth as it left her and poured into the unconscious hunter she observed without really seeing. Noting on some level his several wounds mending, flesh stitching itself together, leaving smooth clean patches of fresh skin not a new scar in sight. Tåke wondered if this hunter would be more or less upset at the absence of scars from his misadventure. Sometimes it was hard to predict the reactions of urban humanoids, some were volatile over the most absurd things. And Blood Hunters always seemed to relish their scars, each usually accompanied a tale of near death and the saving of untold strangers who remained none the wiser.

She felt the hunter slip from beneath her fingers and struggle to sit up; the soft grunt in his breathing obvious to her trained ears. She ignored him for a moment later, letting the gentle chant fade from her lips with a fading note that lingered in the air as she drew her eyes from the sleeping changeling to the grown elf man. The druid kept her eyes slightly downcast and turned away as she watched him from beneath lowered lashes.

Without a word, she slowly pulled a drinking skin from her bag and placed it on the ropy carpet of vines between them, sliding it towards him with the ease of one who gained the trust of wild things on a regular basis. Giving him her profile, she tucked a few wayward braids behind her ear, revealing the triangular tapering of her ear. She heard him tense the slightest creak of leather and metal, the familiar coil in her gut at his train of thoughts.

She could almost hear it, memories of gasps and soft prayers to the gods for protection from the women and from the men, growls of anger and fear. The sounds that always followed when Alvitur took her to villages on the outskirts of their forest home. His words came to mind as clear as the last time he stood behind her, the weight of his hand on her shoulder preventing her from pulling her hood over her head, “Don’t let their ignorance scare you child. Leave your hood off and let them see, let them fear. And when you set their bones and mend their ills they will learn that you are not the enemy. They are no different than the crows or the wolves you seem the enthrall with every smile. Well, they smell worse I suppose.” It didn’t upset her as much anymore she had her Pack now and they accepted her as she was, but she couldn’t stop herself from tightening her hold on the babe who fussed in its sleep softly at the movement.

“Easy friend, none here shall harm you. I wouldn’t stray too far from the fire though, this magic doesn’t cover the world.” She tapped the toddler’s small button of a nose, murmuring softly as if she were speaking only to him, and not this brawny half elf. her tone soft and low but wary. “Maybe half at best. Drow, I mean. A foundling, raised by the families of a great wood, trained as a druid. I mean, in case you weren’t paying attention. Healed your wounds by the way. Saved your life too, not by myself mind. The Shallar did the heavy lifting.” She patted the tangle of roots covering the wall. “We have a lot to speak about you and I. What shall I call you? I’m Tåke, druid and for you, in this moment you can consider me your Fae-ish Godmother. Sort of… Mostly. This would be much less stressful if you just go with it and consider me a friend. Okay? Good.”

The half elf reached out and snatched the skin, uncorking it and taking a sniff before putting the water skin to his lips and taking a cautious sip. After a moment of indecision, he tilted it up and drank deeply, draining the skin before pulling it away with a muffled belch. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand he coughed softly, looking around the small camp before answering. “Ajanta Mazen, You can call me Mazen.”

Someone’s got to be the sucky blood-hunter. Uh, No offense” Zildath’s laughter rang in her head as she smiled sheepishly at Mazen. She hadn’t meant to say that part out loud and could tell he was slightly offended the straightening of his back and the snort of indignation. The blush creeping across his face was also a good hint. “…It wasn’t as if she smelled like a Lich, she just smelled old bog witch. How was I supposed to know. Look, you don’t know me, I was on official Blood Hunter business. I fight monsters, not crazy middle aged women in the woods!” She zoned out as he started his tirade to finish her conversation with her remaining Pack members. Tuning back in a bit later, she noticed he was sulking quietly, pointedly not looking in her direction. Smirking, she tapped the water-skin, the supple leather rising and filling as she filled it with more water.

“Look, I need you to do this thing. Consider it repayment for saving your life. I need you to go to Filandra in the country of Rastrojos. When you-”

Rastrojos! That’s halfway around the world! I can’t go there, I need to go back to the monastery and report what’s happened, where I’ve been! People will surely be worried that I’ve been gone so long. I’m a very important fixture you know.”

“I have it on good authority that not only will you be missed, but you will be a hard void to fill in the lives of those you have touched through your training. Especially to your students of the more, unique sort. And it’s very important that you don’t return to the monastery for at-

“That is unacceptable. Look, I understand you got VERY lucky and by some miracle you managed to rescue me. But you will listen to me young Miss, I will not -”

“Look, There are really only two options for you to leave this cave system and only one of them needs you to be alive. My friend would really like you to take that option but for that to happen, you cannot go back top the monastery for at least five more years.”

“FIVE YEARS!? And what would you have me doing in that five year span? Become a farmer and worry about… whatever farmers worry about? I am a Blood Hunter and Tritherion take me, I will not abandon my duty. Not for you or anyone.”

The woman sighed, his frustration making her weary as well as irritated at the condescending tone creeping into his voice as he rejected her proposal offhand. “Malor preserve me.” she murmured under her breath, “It’s not even like that would be unprecedented, so what’s the problem? Hunters roam far and wide across this planet and beyond. Often gone far longer than whatever short time you’ve been away poking around in badger holes and slaughtering the things that go bump in the night. You can still be a Blood Hunter. I would say that you could even start your own school for Blood Hunters, which would not only help now but definitely help in the future, TRUST me.”

Mazen let out a short braying laugh, it brought the image of a stubborn mule to the front of her mind. “Trust you, I don’t even know who you are. You say you’re a goddess but I’ve never heard of you. Who worships you and what are you the goddess of exactly? Random rescues and abandoned children?” His tone grated on her nerves derision seeping from his lips. He carried on for a few moments longer, but she had stopped listening, a soft ringing in her ears drowning out his words as she pictured herself leaping up and simply biting him. Not fatally, but enough to maybe draw blood and certainly enough to shut his incessant chatter up.

“Nethrali is a goddess of lost children, or well, she will be in a few years anyway. And this child is not lost. Because he will have you to guide him. Just as you have guided many other children into adulthood. This is not a request, I need you to protect this child as I cannot. And in ten years time you may begin your journey back to report to the monastery if you wish. I cannot tell you why exactly, but know that if you do this not only will you save this child, but you might even help save this world. Our future hinges on you doing as I ask.”

Rastrojos is literally on the other side of the world, it would take longer to get there without magic than five years.” He tapped his chin for a second before making a face and reaching for the waterskin once more. Huffing in surprise as its fullness Mazen uses it to clear a bit of the mess of dirt and goo from the pod from his face.

“Well, how about the Isle of Barsar? I know there’s an old monastery on the island somewhere. You could go there, it’s much closer and if I recall correctly it’s been abandoned for like a hundred years, give or take. There have got to be some pretty nasty monsters and things lurking in the halls, right? And I mean if you want to farm I’m sure there’s dirt. If not it’s not far off a traders path I’m sure. And I know for a fact it’s a bit of a neutral ground because of clans not agreeing who had to care for it or whatever stupid reasons they decided to have a tantrum about. So it could be all yours.”

“Barsar Island? That’s not too far off, a few messenger birds could get to the island in a few weeks. Plenty of food can be had from the sea. Easily defensible and there are plenty enough ways to keep fresh water around.”

“I promise you, I will personally come for you and the little one myself. But I need y-”

“Okay, I get it already. Fine! Go to Barsar and start a new school for build up the ranks. And take this… child, as my first student. Anything else you would have me do oh persistent goddess of brats and babysitters?” With a dramatic sigh Mazen threw his freshly washed hands in the air before reaching out and scooping up the boy. Settling back against the wall the scarred hunter looked thoughtfully from the child to the woman beside him. His face was strangely soft as he watched the baby in his arms whimper and ball a little fist as he dreamed of whatever the innocent conjured during their sleeping hours..

Shooting a glance at Tåke he asked in a gruff begrudging tone. “Did you at least name him?” Tåke nodded, a smile playing at the corner of her mouth as she watched him sooth the child with the ease of one who had comforted many a fussy baby on many a sleepless night. The Wolf-lord smiled, her fingertip stroking the baby’s cheek one last time as she whispered his name, “Talzil’riel Karhu,She leaned over and kissed the inky mop of loose curls that covered his head, “If you are ever in dire need, do not hesitate to call for me.” She murmured as she leaned down and inhaled his baby smell. In all her years Tåke never understood why babies all had a hint of freshness, across all the births she had attended, all babies has a sort of ‘fresh’ smell. Talzil’riel Karhu was no exception to that and it brought her a measure of comfort. They sat like that for a time, Tåke still pumping healing magic through Mazen as he dozed fitfully, his arms protectively wrapped around the child, the Shallar whispering story after story to the quiet trio.

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